31 March – 07 April 2015 | Issue 87
During the reporting week UNRWA closed the Zaitoun Prep Girls B Collective Centre in Gaza city, decreasing the total number of Agency-run shelters to 11 across the Gaza Strip. UNRWA continues to provide daily hot meals and shelter to around 6,900 internally displaced women, men and children.
Operational environment: Aside from the afore-mentioned ICC development, there was no significant change in the political or security environment during the reporting week. Discussion and negotiations are however, reportedly taking place regarding the Swiss proposal over resolving the salary crisis of former de facto government officials - who continue reporting to work despite having not received a regular salary since autumn 2014- by integrating them into the employment hierarchy of the Palestinian government institutions. A Swiss delegation visited the Gaza Strip, Ramallah and Israel in the end of March 2015. The Swiss salary proposal is bound to a broad-based diplomatic, economic and political arrangement for Gaza including the unification of Gaza and the West Bank and a truce with Israel. According to several media reports, Both, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and influential Hamas officials have expressed support in principle for the Swiss reform plan.
Daily protests during the reporting week continued, mostly concerning the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails or against the Israeli imposed blockade. On 5, 6 and 7 April different Islamic, national and youth factions held demonstrations in solidarity with their fellow Palestinians in the Yarmouk Camp in southern Damascus which had been reportedly overrun by Islamic jihadists recently and continues to be besieged by the Syrian army. On 5 April, UNRWA urgently called for safety and protection of civilians in Yarmouk.
On 5 April an unexploded ordinance (UXO) exploded in Shajaya area in eastern Gaza city. Two civilians sustained shrapnel wounds.
Ruba Al Ghouty, posing outside the UNRWA Prep B Girls school in Rafah, is one of the 29 winners of the 2015 Inspirational Messages of Peace Contest. She convinced the jury with her message titled: “A dream that I want to come true”. Photo credit: © UNRWA 2015/Khalil Odwan.
Two teenage girls from the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza, Ruba Al Ghoty and Tasneem Al Qeeq, are amongst the 29 winners of the 2015 “Inspirational Messages of Peace Contest” organized by the American non-profit organization International World Peace Rose Gardens (IWPRG), an organisation that tries to engage world citizens in activities that promote global peace through art and messaging. More than 2,200 students from all over the world – including China, India and Mexico – participated in the contest launched in conjunction with the 23rd anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Junior, on 4 April.
“My peace is between my joy and my love” is the title of the message written by Tasneem, and it certainly convinced the jury. “I decided to participate as a Palestinian girl coming from a place that is not stable or safe. With my message I wanted to express the injustice that we Palestinian children are living in,” the 15-years old UNRWA student comments.
Ruba, the other Gaza winner, saw her participation as a chance to send her message of peace to the rest of the world. “We are peace lovers. All we want is to have a peaceful homeland. We have had enough wars and destruction,” she shares.
The 29 winner-messages will be engraved on individual plaques and exhibited in the “I have a dream”-World Peace Rose Garden in the Martin Luther King historic site in Atlanta, USA, and will possibly be read by more than 700,000 visitors who walk through the rose park annually.
When the school announced the contest of “Inspirational Messages of Peace” Ruba and Tasneem were encouraged by their teachers and their principal to participate and convey their messages of peace to the world. However, the two girls, who both say they see Martin Luther King Junior and his fight for human rights in a peaceful way as their role model, did not expect to be amongst the winners. When they were informed about their success, they both felt very proud. “This is the first step in fighting for peace, and letting others know about the rights of Gaza’s children,” they both commented.
Filled with energy and positive attitude, Ruba dreams of establishing an institution to support human rights for Gaza children and for children in the world: “A dream that I wanted to come true; to live in peace, like butterflies, birds in the sky, the colours of rainbow shine in the sky, so let us live in peace,” she wrote in her peace message.
During the reporting week, Israeli forces fired at Palestinians near the fence with Israel or at Palestinian boats on a daily basis. On 1, 2, 4 and 5 April Israeli forces shot towards and arrested a total of 9 Palestinians who attempted to cross into Israel. One managed to escape. On 3 April, Israeli forces fired towards a group of Palestinians approaching the fence in Kahn Younis, southern Gaza, and injured three Palestinians. On the same day militants fired one test rocket towards the sea. On 4 April the Egyptian navy fired towards Palestinian boats approaching Egyptian waters. On 6 April two Israeli tanks and two bulldozers entered approximately 200 metres east of Khuzaa area in southern Gaza and reportedly conducted a clearing operation. They withdrew on the same day.
US$ 175 million has been pledged in support of UNRWA’s emergency shelter programme, for which a total of US$ 720 million is required. This leaves a current shortfall of US$ 545 million. UNRWA urgently requires US$ 100 million in the first quarter of 2015 to allow refugee families with minor damage to repair their homes and to provide ongoing rental subsidies.
As presented in UNRWA’s oPt Emergency Appeal, for its 2015 emergency operations in Gaza, the Agency is seeking USD 366.6 million, including USD 127 million for emergency shelter, repair and collective centre management, USD 105.6 million for emergency food assistance, and USD 68.6 million for emergency cash-for-work. More information can be found here (PDF).
Kerem Shalom was open between 31 March to 2 April and 5 to 7 April. It was closed on 3 and 4 April.